Newsletter - 13th March 2017
Irish records FREE at Findmypast ENDS FRIDAY
FamilySearch say goodbye to microfilm BREAKING NEWS
Save on Ancestry DNA ENDS SUNDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 3rd March) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):
Whenever possible links are included to the websites or articles mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them). If one of the links doesn't work this normally indicates that you're using adblocking software - you need to make the LostCousins site an exception (or else use a different browser, such as Chrome).
To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter. If you're not already a member, do join - it's FREE, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available!
Irish records FREE at Findmypast ENDS FRIDAY
From 10 am this morning until Friday 17th March you can access the world's largest online collection of Irish records - more than 116 million of them - completely free at any of Findmypast's sites around the world.
Combine this amazing collection with the historic registers of births, marriages, and deaths that are also free online (here at the Irish government site) and researching your Irish ancestry will be easier than ever before!
Here's a summary of some of the key records in Findmypast's collection:
To celebrate St Patrick's Day in style by tracing your Irish ancestry, simply follow the link to the Findmypast site of your choice:
You won't need to provide credit card or bank details to take advantage of this offer, but you will be expected to log-in, or register if you haven't done so before.
FamilySearch say goodbye to microfilm BREAKING NEWS
I'm very grateful to LostCousins member Sue who pointed out this important announcement on the blog of the London Family History Centre:
Note: since I wrote this article the blog posting has disappeared, so it may have been posted in error. You will know more when I do!
Whilst more and more parish registers and other records are being made available online, either by FamilySearch or one of the commercial providers, there are many researchers whose only means of gaining access to records in archives thousands of miles away is to visit their nearest LDS Family History Centre.
According to Wikipedia there are over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm and around three-quarters of a million microfiches in the Salt Lake City library - local family history centres only hold a small fraction of this number, which is why the facility to order in films is so important. This page in the FamilySearch wiki explains how to order films and fiches.
Let's hope that the announcement heralds the start of a new era in which films held at Salt Lake City are distributed digitally. It's not that expensive to digitize a roll of microfilm - probably about $50 in quantity - although when you multiply $50 by 2.4 million it's still a very big number. Nevertheless, this has to be the way forward - provided that the owners of the rights in the material have no objections.
Note: even if my hunch is correct it's probable that, like the microfilms, the digitized images will only be available within LDS Family History Centres around the world.
By far the biggest collection of LDS films and fiches in the UK is the one belonging to the London Family History Centre. You may recall that in 2011 I reported that the collection was being relocated to the National Archives at Kew during building work which was expected to last 7 or 8 months - well, it has been there ever since!
This month it was announced that the London Family History Centre's permanent microfilm collection has been given to the Society of Genealogists, and will be available there - potentially from early June.
I suspect this will mean that access to their collection is free to SoG members, but that others will have to pay the usual modest library fee.
We all know that some medical conditions and unusual traits are inherited, but not everyone knows why it is that children can suffer from an inherited condition that didn't affect either of their parents, or how two blue-eyed parents can have a brown-eyed child.
I suspect that at this stage most of you reading this article will be thinking "there aren't any inherited conditions in my family" - well, I'm sorry to say this, but most of you are wrong, so ignore what I'm about to say at your peril!
In the process I'm going to relate the inheritance of genetic anomalies to the tests that genealogists use to find living cousins, knock down 'brick walls', test hypotheses, and verify their paper-based research. No two people can have identical DNA unless they came from the same fertilised egg (eg identical twins) - and even then there will be small differences, as I explained in the last newsletter.
Most differences between the DNA of one human and another are benign - it really doesn't matter whether we have brown eye or blue eyes, black skin or white skin (or at least it shouldn't do). But all of us carry potentially harmful mutations in our genes - research published in 2012 revealed that in 179 people they found an average of 400 damaging variants and 2 disease-causing mutations, figures which are expected to rise as we learn more about the causes of genetic diseases.
Most of our DNA is autosomal - it comprises 22 pairs of chromosomes. We inherit our autosomal DNA from both of our parents and pass half of it on to each of our children (though it's not as simple as taking one chromosome from each pair - they get mixed up first). The Family Finder test from Family Tree DNA, and the tests from Ancestry DNA and 23andMe, all work primarily with autosomal DNA because it can provide insight into any (though not all) of our ancestral lines.
Note: the reason why DNA tests can't tell us about all of our ancestral lines is simple - we haven't inherited DNA from every single ancestor. Whilst we inherit half of our autosomal DNA from each parent, they could only pass on to us half of what they inherited, and the same applied to their parents (our grandparents) and so on. Eventually - and because DNA is passed on in chunks you only have to go back a few generations - there will be some ancestors whose DNA has dropped out of the picture altogether.
Most inherited conditions are autosomal recessive, which is a complicated way of saying that unless you inherit them from both of your parents, you won't show any symptoms. This diagram from the website of the National Library of Medicine in the US illustrates how it works when both parents are carriers:
There are 4 equally-likely outcomes (please ignore the fact that some of the children are shown as male and some as female), which means that even if both parents carry the same harmful recessive mutation there's only a 25% chance of each child being affected. However, there's a two-third chance that a child who doesn't show any symptoms is a carrier - which is why the conditions haven't been eliminated from the human population even though the mutation that causes them could have occurred tens of thousands of years ago.
Of course, if only one parent is a carrier then there are only 2 possible outcomes - either the child is a carrier or unaffected. Again there are equally likely.
Some inherited conditions are autosomal dominant, which means that if you inherit the faulty gene from either parent you'll be a sufferer. In this case the risk will be clear because a parent who has the condition will themselves be a sufferer, as you can see from this diagram:
Apart from autosomal DNA we also inherit mitochondrial DNA - which comes from our mother (and her mother before that) - and two sex chromosomes, either two X chromosomes (if you are female) or one X chromosome and one Y chromosome (if you are male).
Until a few years ago genealogists were restricted to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which only tell us about our direct female line, the one that runs up the extreme right-hand edge of a conventional family tree, and Y-DNA tests, which can only be taken by males, and tells them about their direct male line, the one runs up the extreme left-hand edge of the tree.
Diseases caused by faulty mtDNA are few and far between but can be quite devastating - I wrote
about them three years ago. Mothers with faulty mtDNA will pass it on to all of their children; father with faulty Y-DNA will pass it on to all of their sons.
Although faulty Y-DNA can cause problems males are more likely to suffer from defects in their X-chromosome, because it contains more genes and - unlike females - they only have one copy.
If you want to find out more about genetic conditions, this guide on the US National
Library of Medicine website goes into far more detail than I have.
Following the last newsletter I was deluged with examples of cousin marriages from readers' trees. In that article I mentioned that the 1st cousins in my tree had only one child - a son - and that whilst he married he had no children at all.
There are numerous inherited conditions - most of them rare - that a couple might pass on to their children, but we're very unlikely to have full medical histories for relatives from earlier generations. Only those that affect the reproductive capability of the offspring - or discourage them from having their own children - are going to be obvious from a family tree.
Nevertheless, quite a few LostCousins members wrote in with sad stories about the offspring of the cousin marriages in their trees, several from the 20th century and involving relatives they had known. Thankfully others were able to tell me that there seemed to have been no adverse effects - so far as they could tell.
The conditions that are most likely to cause problems when cousins marry are autosomal recessive conditions. Most harmful mutations are rare in the population as a whole, so the chance of two carriers marrying is small - for example, the gene for albinism is found in 1 in 70 of the population, so the chance that two randomly-selected individuals are both carriers is 1 in 70 x 70, or very nearly 1 in 5,000.
Note: even if both parents are carriers, there's only 1 chance in 4 that they will both pass on the mutation to a given child.
But 1st cousins aren't randomly-selected - they share common grandparents, and if EITHER of their shared grandparents was a carrier, a 1 in 35 chance, there's a 1 in 16 chance that they will have passed the defective gene on to BOTH of the cousins who married.
This means that the chance of both cousins being carriers is 1 in 35 x 16, or about 1 in 500 - in other words, cousins are 10 times more likely to have an albino child. LostCousins member Janice told me that her grandparents were 1st cousins and that 2 of their 3 children suffered from albinism (fortunately Janice is descended from the other child).
But albinism is just one of many genetic disorders that are autosomal recessive. You will recall that in the article above I reported research indicating that on average each individual has 2 or more disease-causing mutations - which suggests that the chance of something going wrong when cousins have children together is actually quite high. So whilst many of the members who wrote in with examples of cousin marriages from their own tree were able to tell me that, so far as they knew, there were no adverse effects, a significant number reported problems of one sort or another.
A few members reported marriages that were potentially even more dangerous: in Loreley's tree the cousins who married were double 1st cousins (ie they shared both sets of grandparents). Such marriages are legal in most countries, but nevertheless twice as risky as marriages between cousins who share only one set of grandparents.
But Lesley told me about a marriage between her great-great grandfather and his niece - that marriage was illegal, as well as dangerous. Indeed, it seems that poor Lesley may be paying the price - her grandmother lost her hearing completely at the age of 11, whilst Lesley lost the hearing in one of her own ears at the age of 13. On the other hand, Mike has a similar marriage in his tree, but is unaware of any problems that resulted.
A member who works in a paediatric intensive care unit at a hospital in Canada confirmed that there are concerns about cousin marriages in the medical profession, and noted that some minorities are particularly prone to problems, such as the Hutterites (who originated in Austria). Endogamy, the practice of marrying only within a clan, tribe, or small religious grouping can produce a population in which all of the members are genetically similar - the ISOGG wiki gives a number of examples here - and this can not only result in high levels of certain inherited ailments, it has the effect of confounding DNA tests (since cousins will appear to be more closely related than they really area).
Ironically many of the US states that continue to ban marriages between cousins were also amongst the last to allow inter-racial marriages, even though marrying someone from a different race is probably the best way to diversify your childrens' genes. Unless, perhaps, you were alive 40,000 years ago, and had the chance to mate with a Neanderthal….
Note: many thanks to everyone who wrote in - I could only feature a fraction of your contributions in this article.
If you download your raw DNA results from Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, or 23andMe you can upload them to GEDmatch, where one of the free tools will tell you whether your parents were related, and if so how closely.
GEDmatch also offers the opportunity to find cousins who tested with a different company - you could say it's the 'LostCousins' of DNA!
We all have 'brick walls' in our tree. Some will be solved when newly-transcribed records become available online, sometimes the pieces fall into place when we find a cousin who has approached the problem from a different angle (perhaps with the help of family stories), but others may never be resolved using paper records because the written evidence simply doesn't exist (and possibly never has).
DNA offers a potential solution - not to every problem we might encounter, but to most of them. Instead of relying on written records we provide a small sample of saliva (or a scraping from inside our cheek) so that a DNA testing company can compare the evidence in our cells with that provided by hundreds of thousands (or millions) of others who have tested before us, or will test after us. It's like LostCousins but with DNA rather than censuses.
Because it costs more to take a DNA test then it does subscribe to LostCousins you might assume that DNA testing is an easier route to finding cousins and knocking down 'brick walls'. That isn't the case, I'm afraid, because whereas LostCousins can tell two cousins precisely how they're related, that rarely happens when you find a DNA cousin. Nevertheless, because DNA can solve problems that would otherwise be completely insoluble, it's something that no serious family historian can ignore.
You can help yourself and your cousins by completing the section at the bottom of your My Details page at the LostCousins site:
Cousins you're matched with now or in the future will be able to see whether you have tested, or are considering testing - this will be very helpful for them in planning their DNA testing strategy and might well encourage them to test. Remember that a DNA match with a cousin you already know can be just as valuable as one that leads to a new cousin, not least because it helps to verify your records-based research.
But there's another reason why you should update this section of your My Details page - if I know you're interested in testing I'll make sure you get to hear about offers on DNA tests (sometimes they don't coincide with my newsletters).
However, if you've left this section of your My Details page blank, or selected the 'No' option, I'll assume that you AREN'T interested, and I won't send you a special email.
Save on Ancestry DNA ENDS SUNDAY
If you live in Australia, New Zealand, or North America there are offers starting today that will enable you to make useful savings on tests from Ancestry DNA.
This week The Genealogist added colour tithe maps for the old county of Middlesex (ie not including London), following on from the Northumberland maps I mentioned in the last issue. The image above is taken from the tithe map for New Brentford.
Tip: you can save £20 on a Diamond subscription to The Genealogist if you follow this link.
On Saturday 1st April Anne Morddel, whose French Genealogy Blog I recommended last year, will be presenting an afternoon course entitled "Tracing French Genealogy" at the Society of Genealogists headquarters in London.
Unfortunately the course sold out while I was writing this newsletter, but I thought it would nevertheless be useful to reproduce this extract from the write-up:
"France has required the recording of birth, marriage and death information since 1615, first as parish registrations by curates and priests of baptisms, marriages and burials, then, from 1792, as civil registrations. Nearly all of these, as well as those of many Protestant churches, have been filmed, now digitised, and are available at no charge online on the various websites of the Departmental Archives."
A number of readers who have written in reporting problems finding returns clearly hadn't used the web page that I created especially to make it simple - you'll find it here.
Although most of the returns aren't online yet, the links on that page will work as and when they do become available, so I would recommend bookmarking it in your browser.
Thanks for writing in with news of the discoveries you've made in the returns that are already online.
When John Wintrip, the author of Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors, wrote last November to ask whether I would review his upcoming book I was somewhat reticent - I explained that I can't read more than a fraction of the books that I'm invited to review, not even when the book has been written by a LostCousins member.
Well, I'm jolly glad I made the time to read his book! It's absolutely crammed with useful information, as well as hints and tips to help those of us who don't have John's experience as a professional genealogist. I found out quite a few things that I didn't know before, and more importantly the book provided confirmation of numerous assumptions I'd made in the past, but hadn't been able to back up with hard evidence (despite having a bookcase full of genealogy books).
Many books seem to tail off towards the end - whether this is because the author has run out of ideas or because the reader has run out of stamina doesn't matter - but in Tracing You Pre-Victorian Ancestors the author has saved some of the best bits for last. For example, I thought Chapter 10 (out of 14) on "Evidence and Proof" was outstanding, by far the best thing I've read on this thorny topic.
Chapter 11 deals with "Family Reconstitution", then Chapter 12 tackles "Missing Ancestors", presenting numerous useful techniques for knocking down those pesky 'brick walls'. Chapter 13 focuses on "Mistaken Identity", and considers how easily we make unsound assumptions, whether through carelessness or ignorance (did you know, for example, that before the 18th century the term 'nephew' might refer to a grandson, whilst a 'cousin' might be a nephew?).
Throughout the book the style is friendly rather than condescending - it's more like being mentored than lectured (I try to achieve the same in my newsletters, though whether I succeed only you can judge!). Like all the best authors on genealogy his writing is clearly influenced by the mistakes he made and the lessons he learned along the way. The only friendly criticism I have is the failure to mention LostCousins by name in the last chapter, "Help from Others" (no doubt this will be rectified in the 2nd edition!).
Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors deserves a place on the bookshelves of anyone who is, or aspires to be, a serious family historian. It's bang up to date - the GRO's new online indexes, which were launched in November are mentioned - and whilst the examples are all from England, most of the principles can also be applied to research in other English-speaking countries.
The book is well worth the published price of £14.99, but the good news is that when I checked Amazon UK there were several sellers offering it at a useful discount, even taking into account shipping costs.
Unfortunately it hasn't been released yet in North America (it's due out in June in the US, with Amazon.com quoting a price of $24.95), but if you are outside the UK I can recommend Book Depository who are based in England, but offer free delivery worldwide (their price was £14.14, less than US$18, when I checked just now). As ever, you can support LostCousins by using the links below, even if you end up buying something completely different.
The preface states "this book is part encyclopedia, part dictionary, part almanac, part directory", and continues "The idea was to create a work of reference where definitions of obsolete terms rubbed shoulders with facts, dates, tips, advice, websites and little-known sources."
If this gives you the impression that the book is a bit of hotch-potch then you're right - it isn't by any means comprehensive, and yet every time I opened the book at random I came across something useful or interesting that I didn't know before.
For example, in a conventional dictionary of family history you'd probably expect to find definitions of words and phrases like 'peculiar', 'extra parochial', 'relict', 'messuage', and 'Lady Day' - all terms that I encountered as I was reading the previous book, but which don't merit an entry in this dictionary. Also omitted are 'brick wall', 'transcription', 'St Catherine's index', 'Family Record Centre', 'City of London', 'Findmypast', and even 'LostCousins'.
There are entries for both Abney Park and Highgate cemeteries, but none for the other key London cemeteries that opened around the same time, nor for the City of London Cemetery, even though (according to Wikipedia) it's the largest municipal cemetery in the UK, and possibly in Europe, with up to 1 million people interred there.
You'll find the Guild of One-Name Studies mentioned under 'One-Name Studies, Guild of', but there is no entry for 'Surname studies' or 'One-Place studies'. The entry for 'Mormon' tells you that they are members of the LDS Church - which is in the list of abbreviations, but doesn't have an entry of its own, so you wouldn't necessarily know that members of the church are often called Mormons. Staying with churches, Baptists, Methodists, and Unitarians get a mention, but not Congregationalists.
Some entries which should be cross-referenced aren't. For example, there's a brief entry under 'Marriage Act of 1753' but to find out more about what it entailed you'd have to know to look up 'Hardwicke's Marriage Act'. Similarly, an entry for the Miriam Weiner Routes to Roots Foundation explains that it's a guide to Jewish and civil records in Eastern Europe, but there's no entry for Eastern Europe, nor any mention of this resource in any of the 'J' entries. There are entries for both Dade and Barrington registers, but neither entry mentions the other - which would have been helpful.
But realistically, most of my comments are irrelevant in the age of the Internet - Google has most of the answers - so the need for conventional dictionaries is fast disappearing. Nor would most people want to browse a regular dictionary, whereas dipping into Jonathan Scott's compendium is like watching QI - you'll discover all sorts of things that you didn't know you didn't know (and I suspect you'll find it hard to resist a wry smile when you read what he has written about the IGI!).
The cover price is £14.99 but at the time of writing it was available at lower prices (including shipping) from the sites below:
I've just started reading the next Morton Farrier story from the pen of Nathan Dylan Goodwin - and this time it's about Morton's search for his own father. I should be able to tell you more in my next newsletter, but for now I'm just going to list the previous titles in this genealogical mystery series in case you've missed out on one or two:
It isn't strictly necessary to read the books in order, but I enjoy following the saga of Morton and his long-suffering Juliette, so I suspect you will too.
But if you want to buy the new book now, rather than waiting for my review, you'll find it here:
Tip: if you prefer paperbacks to ebooks you'll find that there are secondhand copies of some of the earlier books available at Amazon.
I try to keep the newsletters light-hearted but there are times when I have no option but to be serious.
LostCousins doesn't simply exist to brighten up your day - though I hope my newsletters manage to achieve that now and again. I created LostCousins (and have spent a fifth of my entire life running it) because I knew that every family historian has tens of thousands of living cousins, some of whom will have invaluable information or heirlooms (including photos, letters, certificates and, perhaps, the family Bible).
Of course, most of those cousins aren't researching their family tree, and even fewer will be LostCousins members, but anyone reading this who has predominantly British ancestry will have in the region of 200 cousins (5th cousin or closer) who ARE fellow members.
And yet, most of you haven't made the connections! Why? Because connecting with your cousins requires you both to put in a little effort, by completing your My Ancestors page. Some people do it on the day they join and find cousins immediately - others put it off by coming up with lame excuses like "I haven't got the time", "I don't know where to find the census references", or "I haven't got a subscription to Ancestry/Findmypast".
Some are misled - understandably - by the title My Ancestors. You're not restricted to entering your direct ancestors - you can enter any of your relatives who were recorded on the censuses (ideally the 1881 Census, as that's the one your cousins are most likely to have used). Indeed, it's the members of your ancestors' extended families - their brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, and cousins - who are most likely to connect you to your living cousins.
A few are simply selfish - they're only interested in the lines where they need help, and not those where they can give help to others (their own cousins, for goodness sake!). I'm sure you're not one of them, so I'm just going to deal with the other obstacles….
"I haven't got the time" assumes that using LostCousins takes time - when in reality it saves you time, by connecting you with cousins with whom you can share the workload. Two cousins working together can achieve so much more!
"I don't know where to find the census references" is perhaps the lamest of all excuses, because there are illustrated Getting Started guides on the Help & Advice page that demonstrate how simple it is to find the 1881 census references (for other censuses see the FAQs page, as well as the notes on the Add Ancestor form).
"I haven't got a subscription to Ancestry/Findmypast" doesn't apply since there is at least one census from all of the countries that LostCousins covers which is free online (it might only be the transcription that's free, but if that's the case, you'll only need access to the transcription in order to complete your My Ancestors page). The Census Links page indicates which of the censuses are free online - and crucially, it includes all the 1881 censuses that we use, the ones that are most likely to connect you to your living cousins.
Of course, there are a few people for whom it's very difficult, even impossible, to participate - although if the impressive success of Jon (a blind member I've been corresponding with recently) is anything to go by, those cases are few and far between. Even members whose direct ancestors left these shores in the early 19th century should be able to find some of the many relatives who stayed behind, or their descendants, on the censuses we use.
Please don't write to tell me if you are one of the few exceptions who is genuinely unable to take part in the search for living cousins - I don't have a magic wand - but by all means write if you need some help figuring out who to enter, or where to find their information.
However most of you are perfectly able to complete your My Ancestors page - you just haven't got around it. Don't plan to make a New Year's resolution - you won't keep to it. Just do it!
Tuesday: If you're looking for a new monitor for your PC why not amaze your friends with this 24in Samsung Full HD curved screen monitor for under £110 with free delivery!
This is a busy time of the year in the family history world - so my next newsletter might arrive more quickly than either of us expect. See you soon....
© Copyright 2017 Peter Calver
Please do NOT copy or republish any part of this newsletter without permission - which is only granted in the most exceptional circumstances. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or any article in it without asking for permission - though why not invite other family historians to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership (which includes the newsletter), is FREE